By Curt Epstein
California’s Long Beach Airport (LGB) plans to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 5 to unveil the results of its $140 million renovation. Established in 1923 as the first municipal airport in Southern California, the airport (known also as Daugherty Field) has five runways ranging in length from approximately 4,000 feet to 10,000 feet, and sees some 300,000 operations a year. While it hosts its own commercial traffic and serves as an alternative to Los Angeles International, 20 miles to the northwest, LGB also ranks as one of the world’s busiest general aviation airports.
The centerpiece of the upgrade—a new environmentally friendly concourse to accommodate the airport’s more than three million passengers a year—includes state-of-the-art security screening, passenger waiting areas, a palm court atrium and garden walkway. Construction of a new parking structure capable of accommodating nearly 2,000 cars, as well as a parking lot with another 250 parking spaces, ran ahead of schedule and under budget. On the ramp, aircraft parking pads underwent a redesign featuring electrification and new high-mast lighting, as well as resurfacing from asphalt to concrete. A general rehabilitation of the airport’s landmark pre-World War II terminal includes new paint, enhanced lighting and modernized infrastructure but maintains the facility’s Streamline Moderne architecture.
According to airport director Mario Rodriguez, the new 35,000-sq-ft concourse’s resemblance to the lobby of a luxury hotel is by design. “At LAX, they concentrate mostly on the volume; we’re trying to concentrate more on quality, elevating the customer experience instead of just pushing a mass of people through the airport,” he told AIN. To that end, the airport has instilled a strong sense of customer service among its workers, extending to the airport police, who will, according to Rodriguez, even stop to assist passengers struggling with their luggage. To further that welcoming atmosphere, the airport has mandated that all food concessions (no chains, only satellite locations from well known local establishments) charge standard street prices, removing the temptation to gouge a typically captive audience in the way vendors do at many other airports. Amenities include free Wi-Fi service throughout the facility.
In 2001 JetBlue chose LGB as its destination in the Southern California area, and today it ranks as the dominant carrier at the slot-controlled airport, which also offers service from Alaska Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines. “Long Beach is one of those great airports that is just user friendly and the customers seem to really like it,” said James Hnat, JetBlue’s executive vice president. “For the L.A. basin it was a great entry point for us and it really helped us build our brand in Southern California.”